POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating anxiety disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The event may involve a real or perceived threat of injury or death. This can include a natural disaster, combat, an assault, physical or sexual abuse, or other trauma. People with PTSD have a heightened sense of danger. Their natural fight-or-flight response is damaged, causing them to feel stressed or fearful, even in safe situations.

Symptoms of PTSD can disrupt normal activities and the ability to function. Symptoms can be triggered by words, sounds, or situations that remind the patient of the trauma.

In addition, people with PTSD may experience depression and panic attacks. Panic attacks can cause:

  • Agitation
  • Excitability
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • A racing or pounding heart
  • Headaches

DIAGNOSIS

There is no specific test to diagnose PTSD. The condition can be difficult to diagnose because people with the disorder may be reluctant to recall or discuss the trauma or their symptoms. A mental health specialist is best qualified to diagnose PTSD.

Diagnosis of PTSD requires experiencing all of the following for one month or longer:

  • At least one re-experience symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

 

TREATMENT

A psychiatrist may prescribe a combination of therapies to PTSD patients. Cognitive behavioral therapy encourages the patient to remember the traumatic event and express their feelings about it, in an effort to desensitize trauma and reduce symptoms. Support groups are also helpful.

Medications, such antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleep aids, to decrease the frequency of intrusive and frightening thoughts and to help you get some rest.

In any case, getting proper medical and psychiatric management is key to the treatment of PTSD, and should be done so regularly in order to prevent substance abuse.

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